THE RESERVATION DILEMMA
Source: The Hindu
- Twenty years ago, at the dawn of the new millennium and after the ‘Mandal decade’ of the 1990s, it looked as though the institution of caste had become legible in a new way. a
- Those are internal to the caste structure itself and those that are located in the larger context.
- The upper caste group has also entered into the game of caste and the benefits associated with it.
- The internal differentiation has taken place within each large caste grouping.
- The major factors behind such dynamics were economic status, livelihood sources, regional location and electoral influence. For example,
- In Uttar Pradesh, ‘Non-Yadav OBCs’ and ‘Yadav OBC’ have emerged as two subgroups within OBCs in Uttar Pradesh.
- The upper castes have seen division into the non-rich, rich and super-rich classes.
Studying Caste Dynamics via OBC
- OBCs led to the recognition that the upper castes were only a minority rather than the ‘general’ or universal category.
- They invited closer attention to the notion of backwardness because they were an intermediate group.
- OBCs were subjected to creamy layer and non-creamy layer categorization.
- Therefore, they highlighted the pros and cons of categorisation in the reservation system.
- The challenge of internal disparities within large groupings was also highlighted by the OBCs.
- OBCs have a large population base that is distributed nationwide.
- Therefore, they played an important role in state politics and coalition politics at the national level.
- The single most important change over the past two decades is that the process of internal differentiation within each large caste grouping has now penetrated much deeper.
- The impact of this process depends on the dimension of differentiation and on the contextual features which allow or prevent sub-groups from crystallizing as distinct entities.
- The most common dimensions of differentiation are economic status, livelihood sources, and regional location.
- The single most important contextual factor that allows or prevents crystallization as an independent entity appears to be a region-specific electoral influence.
- For example, the Yadavs of Uttar Pradesh have not only coalesced as a coherent group but have also facilitated the emergence of a derivative sub-group called the ‘non-Yadav OBCs’.
- Individual castes within this latter group, however, are yet to acquire a separate electoral identity.
- Similar region-specific developments may be seen in cases such as the Mahars of Maharashtra or the Malas of Andhra Pradesh among the SC groups.
- For example, economic differentiation within the upper castes has produced a division into the non-rich, rich and super-rich segments, but these are not sub-castes, and they are not (yet) a separate political constituency and remain within the larger upper caste fold.
- Moreover, caste being fundamentally relational, it is the changing dynamics between and among caste groupings that matter.
- Macro-analyses of caste will become more and more difficult; they will end up either as unhelpful (and unsustainable) generalities, or they will simply become a collection of detailed micro-studies.
The sources which dynamized the caste system
- The groupings were far too big to remain coherent. This has led to an exponential increase in the complexity of the caste system.
- Another important factor is neoliberalism. It has reoriented the role of the state and the market in India since 1991.
- Other factors include the ongoing restructuring of federalism in India; and finally, the change in the ecosystem of official statistics.
For Prelims & Mains
For Prelims: Caste System, Reservation,
For Mains: What is the caste system and discuss its dynamics (250 Words)